The most basic story structure is the story in three acts. The three act structure has been used since . . . well, forever, but in recent history, the biggest proponent of this structure is Syd Field in his book Screenplay (although it’s been applied to all kinds of stories, not just movies).
So what are the structures in the three-act story?
Act I is the “setup,” where we lay our scene (and our characters). This is where we establish the story world, our characters and their relationships.
That isn’t to say there’s no conflict here, nor that there’s nothing happening. If there isn’t some kind of conflict here, readers are going to get bored.
Act I is about 25% of the story, and ends in the first turning point. This is the point at which the story world gets turned on its head, and we get the story question (Will our hero(ine) win?).
Act II is the “confrontation” or the “rising action.” The name hints at what happens in here—the hero(ine) works on confronting the antagonist in ever-escalating conflicts. Things don’t go their way, of course, or the story would be over pretty quickly.
In the second act, which lasts for about half of the book, the hero(ine) learns and acquires new skills through these confrontations, arming themselves for the big confrontation at the end of this act/the beginning of Act III: the climax or second turning point.
Act III is the “resolution.” In the climax, we answer the story question from the first turning point. The hero(ine) uses the knowledge and skills s/he’s gained in Act II, which have made him/her strong enough to defeat the antagonist.
Sometimes this also includes the hero(ine) coping with his/her newfound strength.
What do you think? Can you see the three-act structure in your work or others’? Have you used this structure to plan or strengthen your work?
Some help from Wikipedia